When Nutrient Deficiencies Persist
The first and best way to get proper nutrition is from a whole foods diet. Unfortunately, micronutrient deficiencies (vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals) are common worldwide. Even with a nearly optimal diet, there are several reasons why one may wish to use nutritional supplements:
1. Declining Nutrient Quality in Vegetables
Vitamins and minerals are lacking in many present-day farm soils. As a result of industrial farm practices, the vitamin and mineral content of vegetables in the USA has been declining for over 40 years. Declining soil quality makes it difficult to get enough of some important micronutrients from plant food sources. A whole-foods-based multivitamin and a trace mineral supplement can be helpful for rounding out the micronutrient profile.
2. CAFOs and Meat Quality
The quality of conventional meat and dairy food sources has also declined because of industrial practices. Cows, pigs, chickens and other animals are raised in confined spaces (CAFOs or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and are fed an unnatural diet of corn. The nutritional profile of meat, dairy and eggs from animals confined in CAFOs is inferior in many respects to pasture-raised beef, lamb, poultry, eggs and dairy.
Importantly, pasture-raised meat, dairy and eggs contain more beneficial anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids than those from CAFO-raised animals. We strongly recommend eating the highest-quality meat sources available to you, preferably pasture-raised. In addition, a supplement high in omega-3, such as cod liver oil, may be recommended to boost your levels.
3. Lifestyle-Related Deficiencies
The best example of a widespread deficiency related to both lifestyle and food quality is vitamin D. If you spend most of your time indoors, or if you live in a rainy climate like Portland, Oregon, you may not be getting enough sunshine to sustain your vitamin D levels. A whole-foods supplement with naturally-occurring vitamin D, such as cod liver oil, may be a good choice.
4. Nutritional Therapy for Specific Health Conditions
Many chronic health conditions will gradually go into remission simply by improving your diet and sticking with it. Conditions like gout, autoimmune disease and gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) will often clear up by shifting to a nutrient-dense diet and then fine-tuning by avoiding certain foods that aggravate the symptoms. Nonetheless, supplementation can be helpful during the healing process, to boost levels of needed nutrients and help the body regain balance.
Always consult your nutritional health care professional before using supplements to treat a specific health problem. Only use whole-foods-based supplements, as these contain the full spectrum of nutrients from the original food source. They can most easily be metabolized, so you derive the greatest benefit.